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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19884

Mr CREAN (2:18 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister inform the parliament whether any members of his office had contact with Mr Bolt in the fortnight prior to the publication of his article on 23 June this year? Can the minister detail which members of his office made this contact and when? If the minister cannot provide this information now, will he undertake to check with his office and, if contacts had been made, report back to the House before the end of question time?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —In relation to the claims made about intelligence going to Senator Macdonald and to Mr Bolt of the Herald Sun newspaper, these matters have been referred to the Australian Federal Police. I have instructed my office to cooperate fully with the Australian Federal Police, which I know they are perfectly willing to do. They will obviously deal with the Federal Police as the Federal Police conduct the investigation. Let me make a couple of other points about this. The first is that I have, during the course of this week, had a look at the material raised by both Mr Bolt and Senator Macdonald. I note that that material had already been discussed by Mr Wilkie in the media before the beginning of the war in Iraq.

Mr Crean —Bolt said he had a copy of that report.

Mr DOWNER —Yes, but I read nothing in Mr Bolt's article or indeed in Senator Macdonald's questions that seemed to me to be substantially different from anything that Mr Wilkie had been saying in the media, including in an article in the Bulletin on 18 March. So I do find it a rather curious thing that this is such a preoccupation for the opposition. I also think it is a very ironic line of questioning from the opposition, bearing in mind their liberal use of top-secret documents during the East Timor crisis when the member for Kingsford-Smith was wandering around the press gallery with Defence Intelligence Organisation documents and was even talking about these documents in a speech at a Labor Party fundraiser.

Finally, there is one other point I would like to make about this. I am struck by comments the opposition have been making during the course of this last week. I have reflected on this. They referred to a top-secret AUSTEO code word document. If the opposition have not seen the document or been briefed on the document, how would they know that it was a top-secret AUSTEO and code word document? The hypocrisy of this, the suggestion that somebody has given the document to Andrew Bolt while the opposition do not know anything about the document, is I think just a little too transparent.